In a world dizzy with pleasure, there is a dearth of joy. In the maze of electronic devices, we have lost the way to true happiness. But to the martyrs who sang on their scaffolds, to the confessors who laughed in their labors, to the virgins who despised earthly prestige and station for the love of Christ, the Poor Clares add their humble testimony: it is in giving that we receive. And giving all, we receive all joy. “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice. And your joy no one shall take from you” (Jn 16:22). The contemplative's heart already rejoices as her whole life keeps watch for his coming. Joy is the product of a lifetime of penance.
Perhaps no life has been more subjected to misinterpretation than the cloistered contemplative life. A cloister is variously thought to be: a haven for those unfit to live in the world; a refuge for the frustrated; a sinecure for those unwilling to take on the burdens of the active apostolate. A Poor Clare monastery is decidedly none of these. The nuns are called Poor Clares because they are poor, living by the work of their hands and their minds and on the alms of the faithful, and because they are followers and daughters of one of the most charming women who ever lived. Her name was Clare, Clare of Assisi.
Why did Assisi’s loveliest debutante of 1212 want to lock herself up in a cloister? Why did laughing, singing, sought-after Clare want to live in silence and prayer? Why did a girl whose home was a castle desire to be poor, to live by the work of her hands and the alms of the faithful? What the world calls “everything,” Clare assuredly had. It was not enough. Her heart was too great to be filled with less than the whole. She simply plunged herself into the Heart of God. There she could fulfill her destiny. There she would be another sign of contradiction to those who look for happiness everywhere except in God.
“In the years in which she met Francis to learn from him about the way of God, Clare was an attractive young woman. The ‘Poverello’ of Assisi showed her a loftier beauty that cannot be measured by the mirror of vanity but develops in a life of authentic love, following in the footsteps of the Crucified Christ. God is the true beauty! Clare’s heart was lit up with this splendor and it gave her the courage to let her hair be cut and to embark on a life of penance” (Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI to Domenico Sorrentino, the Bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino on the occasion of the 2011-2012 Clarian Year).
To the active religious today, Holy Scripture rings out challenges: “Preach the word. Be urgent in season and out of season” (2 Tim 4:2). “And He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38).
To the contemplative religious, Holy Scripture underlines other words: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). “He went out to a mountain to pray, and He passed the whole night in prayer to God” (Lk 6:12). “As dying, and behold we live!” (2 Cor 6:9). The active sister serves God and ministers to souls in the marketplace. The contemplative nun serves God and ministers to souls from the cloister.
“The prayer, work, and recreation of the day should be so ordered that they both flow from and contribute to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours around which the horarium revolves” (cf. our Constitutions).
“What is beauty?” and “In our life, what strikes you as beautiful?” These were the questions proposed by our Mother Abbess to the youngest members of our community...